A Lesson in Perspective

Titles.  I never really thought much about them.  The need for a title was never a driving force for me.  But then I sat in a workshop, and I was asked to list all of my titles.  That’s where I went blank, and that’s where things changed for me.

I sat in that corporate workshop many years ago, and I think that exercise was simply to show how busy we are, how stretched we are.  For each title does bring with it responsibilities.  So, my co-workers got busy listing.  I watched them.  They wrote their titles: mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend, accountant, consultant, manager, coach, singer, photographer, pastor, entrepreneur, Big Brother, volunteer, author, homeowner, student, instructor, caretaker…and on and on their lists went.  My page remained as empty as I suddenly felt inside.  What are my titles? Who am I? What have I done? And where am I leaving my mark? 

Feverishly, I tried to come up with my titles.  I was not married – there goes wife. I had no children – their goes mother.  My parents were deceased – I’m not even a daughter anymore! Keep thinking, I thought. Well, I have siblings.  Good! I’m a sister!  I have a job – I’m a Training Coordinator. Whew. And then I froze.  That’s it? Wait, I’m a friend. Frozen again. I only had three, and somehow all of those felt like defaults.  I was feeling empty again, and I began to hate that exercise.

I didn’t come up with much more than that, but I walked away in deep reflection.  I started to question, “Do titles matter? Was there something less about me because I did not have more of them?”  Upon deeper reflection, I thought maybe I just didn’t have traditional titles. Enter paradigm shift.  That same workshop also taught me to look at things differently, so I did.  It was akin to feeling bad about myself when I turned 30 and listed “All the Things I Haven’t Accomplished.”  I didn’t like that feeling, so I turned it around and created a different list: “Things I’ve Done by 30.” And you know what, there were some amazing things on that list!

So I did that with my “title list.” I stopped fretting over what I wasn’t and began to look at what I was.  I was a traveler. A hiker. A runner. An outdoors(wo)man. A wildlife lover. A nature lover. A weather enthusiast. A Wanderluster. A National Park Junkie. These were titles.  They were my titles, and I was happy with them.  I may not have had the traditional titles, but I was fulfilled by being defined by those.

Though I strayed from the point of that workshop, the exercise taught me a lesson in perspective.  In doing so, I learned more about myself.  That workshop did also inspire me to change careers, and I became a teacher and a coach.  Eventually, those non-traditional titles also led me to create the company Wanderlust (small business owner!).  Therefore, I do owe so much to that workshop that I hated so many years ago.  I don’t remember the facilitator, but I thank her often for changing the course of my life.